We at Preserve Sierra Madre have promised to keep our readership up to date on what is happening in town regarding new zoning laws, remodeling, and new construction in our fair city. We have written about state laws SB 9 and 10, and the changes to the Planning Commission. For the next several months we will focus on The Meadows project, the 20 acres on the Retreat Center property that may be sold to the New Urban West. A Memorandum of Understanding, signed two years ago by then City Manager, Gabe Engeland, and a representative of The Passionist of Holy Cross Province in Chicago established an administrative proceeding to review the Project.
Some have said it is best to let the process play out. Here’s what the “process” has done to date: As the process began, the same time as the worst pandemic in our lifetime, it was all done behind closed doors. The development of the MOU completely omitted the stakeholders – all residents of Sierra Madre. There was absolutely no public comment or input during the formation of the MOU. Importantly, there was no involvement from citizen volunteers, who spent years updating the General Plan. There was no opportunity to ask questions and get answers. And no discussion of alternatives.
At this point, the final EIR and final draft Specific Plan were posted on the City website in January and February. The changes in the final draft Specific Plan - after written comments from residents, public comments before the City Council and Planning Commission, and Planning Commissioners suggestions - are in three key areas:
1. Net zero water – Previously, the developer was promoting ‘net zero water usage’ for 50 years by pre-purchasing water from the Metropolitan Water District. Now, the developer is promoting ‘net zero impact’ by pre-purchasing water from the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, creating a lawn retrofit program and improvements to existing water infrastructure.
2. Widening Carter Avenue – After indicating it wasn’t necessary, the developer has now decided to infringe on the Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park to widen Carter Avenue. They will now remove or endanger the mature pine trees that line the south boundary of the park.
3. Dedication of Open Space - Originally proposed as dedicating 45 acres of open space to the City or other perpetual conservation, the Plan now proposes the conservation of 35 acres with no further details.
We are now approaching step 3 of the Meadows Project Review Process as presented on the City website: This first meeting of the Planning Commission is to begin the process to 1). Certify the final EIR 2). Amend the General Plan 3). Amend the Zoning code 4). Adopt the Specific Plan and 5). Approve the Development Agreement. The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 7 at 7:00pm in City Hall Chambers.
This is an important one that will set the tone for the review process. Please plan to attend (or watch).
We will be writing over the next few months why we think this project not only does not belong in Sierra Madre, but will do irreparable harm to our community. Our issues of concern are: Trees, biology, cultural resources, wildfires, hazardous materials, traffic, water, air quality and off-site damage to Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park. While not mentioned in the Draft EIR -- the Final EIR and Specific Plan indicate that the development will now be encroaching on the dedicated park grounds of Bailey Canyon Park, destroying vegetation and impacting 16 mature trees: removing 4 of them, significantly impacting 10 of them and ‘encroaching’ on 2 of them. In addition, public access and parking will be altered to construct an otherwise unnecessary two-lane street and sidewalk on the west end of Carter Avenue for the sole benefit of this disputed housing development.
If you would like to read more in depth about the issues listed above, we would be happy to email you a copy of our Rebuttal to the Draft Environmental Impact Report. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.